While my family subscribed to the classic Christian “hate the sin, not the sinner” approach, I often felt that, in practice, it was more about hating those you don’t understand, but making sure to accept yourself and those you get along with.
My parents had felt the guilt of their conservative upbringing, with their parents telling them that they would go blind from masturbation, and that getting pregnant out of wedlock meant shame upon the family. So my siblings and I were told masturbation was healthy, and if we impregnated someone or became pregnant ourselves, an open and honest approach would not warrant any scorn.
But homosexuality, we were told that was just gross.
As I got older, this line of thinking became more difficult to understand. When I was 15, I moved to a new school in a small town with people who lived different from my urban way of life. I was ridiculed and picked on everyday, and would often be physically beaten if I tried attending a party or waited too long to get on the bus after school. The only person who ever seemed to stand up for me was my friend David who, I would learn a few years later, was gay.
That same year, after working out at the YMCA, a fellow in his early 20s was in the open shower area with me and waited until everyone had left before he proceeded to stick his erection in my face and asked me if I “liked” what I saw. I said nothing and headed to the lockers where I knew people would be, and put my clothes on.
What he did was not right but I never felt I could judge him. I had been trying to convince my own girlfriend at the time to have sex with me, and I myself would often cross the line of appropriate seduction, if there is such a thing.
A few years later I was talking to David and he was telling me how he had become disgusted with his lifestyle. “One night stand after one night stand” was tearing out his soul, he suggested. He envied his friends in committed relationships and decided that he was going to commit himself toward monogamy, and relationships based on depth and caring.
He inspired me to do the same as well.
It is incredibly difficult to get a firm black and white position on how we should view homosexuality from a Biblical perspective. Some quote Hebrew texts like Leviticus, which suggest homosexuality is a violation against God, but also claim it is a violation to plant two different seeds together, and a violation to use certain fabrics together in the making of clothes.
Others quote one of the three New Testament references to the abomination of homosexuality, amongst the 7956 verses. Many scholars argue that the “homosexuality” talked about in the first-century culture of the early Jesus followers was actually child abuse, where middle-aged adults would be permitted to force themselves upon preteens.
While I don’t think the Bible supports homosexuality, I am not convinced it should be used to condemn others.
Jesus maintained a strong position on traditional marriage while choosing to remain silent on the issue of homosexuality in a culture where it certainly existed. Today Pope Francis is following a similar path. Let us not allow our religious convictions to keep us from taking a clear stance of non-judgement. Let us not become tied down by the games that are played by politicians in the arena of spirituality and religion. Let us humbly take up our Cross in the midst of the political divide and pursue the love of God and the love his people as Christ commanded us to do.
(A version of this was originally written for The Reflector newspaper in May of 2011)